New general manager Danny Ferry's roster-reformation project in Atlanta was a surprise venture no one saw coming. Hiring Ferry, while considered a solid move by most, wasn't exactly viewed as the franchise-shifting move it has turned out to be. Ferry is nothing like his immediate predecessor, Rick Sund, who has been a career caretaker throughout his near four decades in the league. Ferry has proved to be the gambler no one saw coming when the Hawks surprised the basketball world four days before the June draft and pirated Ferry away from the clutches of the Philadelphia 76ers, who were also in talks with him about becoming their general manager. He purged the roster of some of the worst contracts on the books and revamped it with a bucket list of shooters (Lou Williams, Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and rookie John Jenkins) to play off of Josh Smith and Al Horford. Speaking of Smith, the one player most pundits expected the Hawks to shop this summer, he appears to be one the franchise pillars Ferry plans to build around. Sure, he'll be a free agent after this season and appears to be in no hurry to enter into discussions about an extension of his current contract, and there are plenty of suitors. But Ferry believes in Smith in ways that Sund never did, or at least never admitted to. "He's a really good player," Ferry said. "I love his ability to pass the ball. I love his ability to make game-changing plays defensively. I love his competitiveness. If I was out there playing, I would want Josh on my team." Perhaps it's the view from afar that allows Ferry to assess Smith's value the way he does. He doesn't seem to have that built-in angst most of the folks familiar with Smith seem to have when discussing his game. "All players have strengths and areas where they have to get better," Ferry deadpanned. "All of them are praised and criticized." And maybe Ferry realizes that any chance the Hawks have of attracting a big-name free agent to pair up with Smith, Horford and this revamped crew next summer will depend largely on Smith's ability to help recruit the likes of Dwight Howard or Chris Paul to Atlanta. "He's excited for next season," he said. "We haven't really gone in that direction with him (on roster plans). But we've talked about how we're going to play. We've talked about other players. His ideas, my ideas. I'm just trying to establish a relationship." That's a start!
- Danny Ferry